Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Last Call

Yeah, see, video games where you're gunning down zombies of any political candidate is pretty much out of bounds, folks.

In a new free-to-play online game that's sure to worry as many on the left as on the right, players are sent on a mission to kill "tea party zombies," Fox News anchors, Republican politicians, lobbyists and even activists, using weapons like machine guns, shotguns, crowbars and machetes.

Though entirely based tongue-in-cheek, "Tea Party Zombies Must Die" contains politically provocative imagery, like walking through the offices of Koch Industries wielding a shotgun, or attending a sparsely populated tea party rally and killing activists with a crowbar.

In between levels, the game presents quotes from journalists and activists from organizations like The New York Times, The Guardian and Greenpeace, outlining the activities of Koch Industries, the influence of Fox News and the impact of big money on American democracy.

According to the designer, this new "advergame" from viral media group Starvingeyes was not commissioned by any person or organization in particular. Starvingeyes has previously worked with companies like Red Bull, UPS, NASCAR, Motorola, Pepsi and Craftsman, among others.

Frist this is exactly the fainting couch, pearl-clutching "MY STARS AND GARTERS" attention the Tea Party wants, and they'll be flogging the hurt from this for months.  Second and far, far mor important: guns + politics = completely horrible, period.  Not even remotely cool, not even remotely funny, no even remotely appropriate.  Free speech, sure.  Right thing to do?  No way.

This is exactly the kind of political violence we don't need right now, thanks.

Matt Taib-bagger

As much as it pains me to say it, we've lost Rolling Stone econ and political reporter Matt Taibbi to the realm of the anti-Obama "left".

But I remember following Obama on the campaign trail and hearing all sorts of promises before union-heavy crowds. He said he would raise the minimum wage every year; he said he would fight free-trade agreements. He also talked about repealing the Bush tax cuts and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

It's not just that he hasn't done those things. The more important thing is that the people he's surrounded himself with are not labor people, but stooges from Wall Street. Barack Obama has as his chief of staff a former top-ranking executive from one of the most grossly corrupt mega-companies on earth, JP Morgan Chase. He sees Bill Daley in his own office every day, yet when it comes time to talk abut labor issues, he has to go out and make selected visits twice a year or whatever to the Richard Trumkas of the world.

Listening to Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity yesterday reminded me that we are back in campaign mode and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best – play the part of a progressive. He's good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle.

I just don't believe this guy anymore, and it's become almost painful to listen to him.

The problem with this is by reading any of the other Taibbi pieces I've linked to over the years, you then have solid evidence that Taibbi's an excellent journalist, strong writer, and a bulldog factchecker.  Why he's then reduced to feeble whining about Bill Daley being chief of staff and blaming Obama for not passing legislation instead of Congress, reduced to magical thinking about the power of the White House versus Congress, then there really isn't much hope for journalism at this point.

I know Taibbi is better than peddling this farcical crap, but apparently not when it comes to the the political reality of the Presidency in 2011.

We'd Like To Have A Couple Words With You, Mr. President

And those words are "minority unemployment crisis".

The chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and of the three caucuses of black, Hispanic and Asian members of the House would like a word with President Obama before his Thursday jobs address.

In a Tuesday letter provided by a source, the leaders, who speak for a majority of House Dems, sought to make sure that Obama keeps his eye on the jobs crisis, which has disproportionately hit minority groups.

"With unemployment at 9.1% nationally-- approaching 12% in the Hispanic community, 16.7% in the African American community and with Asian American and Pacific Islanders remaining unemployed for longer periods than any other group-- we are in a national crisis. We have learned throughout American history that big, bold action is required to put people back to work and promote economic growth," the chairs write. "The chairs of the CBC, CAPAC, CPC, and CHC look forward to an opportunity to talk with you about proposals we would like you to consider before you address the nation this week."

With news that the President will propose a $300 billion jobs package including aid to states, tax cuts, and infrastructure projects, I'm hoping a project like this will be able to turn the country around.  But Republicans will do everything to stop this proposal dead in its tracks.  The real question is whether or not the GOP will be made to pay any political price at all for killing this, because this will never survive the House.

I do have to say this is the kind of thing I was calling for, a mixture of executive branch initiatives and legislative aid.  Something will be done at some point, but the question is what will be left from the ashes after the Republicans burn this jobs package down and how much will it really help?

What Is This "Accountability" Of Which You Speak?

Some will find this heartless, but I have to speak my mind.  Click here to read the article.  It's intended to tug our heartstrings and make us feel wistful and sad, called to action.  It just pissed me off.

Jeff Wielichowski, 22, drowned in the Greenfield family's swimming pool on July 15 after drinking a punch made of 190-proof Everclear grain alcohol, Red Bull and Gatorade.
Luanne Wielichowski believes her only son had no idea how potent this concoction was, and she has channeled her grief into a crusade to ban the sale of Everclear and other high-proof booze in Wisconsin, as some other states have done.
Let me lay out the broad strokes.  22-year-old man drinks grain alcohol, Red Bull and Gatorade.  Parents see this, and dad tells him to throw it away.  He speaks to his parents, and they see he is very intoxicated.  Young man continues to drink with friends fully knowing what he is drinking.  He jumps into the pool. At some point he drowns.  His friends pull him unconscious from the water and stretch him out, but don't notify the parents.  Father comes outside and finds dead son.

Yet according to the mother, it's the Everclear that is to blame.  It tricked her own son while everybody watched and did nothing.  Friends tell friends when to say when, they don't leave an unconscious person to die while the party goes on.  Parents who see their son (and others) drinking to the point of oblivion have an obligation towards managing the situation as well.  And an unfortunate fact of life is that when people do incredibly stupid things they pay for, or occasionally die for their poor judgment.  The loss of life is awful but it should be a lesson in common sense, not an excuse to restrict everyone's access to a product because there is always someone who will take it too far.  If Everclear wasn't for sale, would Jeff Wielichowsky be alive?  Probably not.  His mother would be suing Jack Daniels or another distributor.  Someone who drinks in that manner was trying to get as intoxicated as possible, period.  He knew how potent the mix was, he was counting on it.  Unfortunately for him, something went very wrong.

But it's the Everclear, of course.  Not somewhat negligent parents, idiot friends or one young man's decision to get smashed coming together for a perfect storm of bad results.  I've had Everclear, and it's the closest thing to moonshine that you can buy legally.  But it is legal, and overreacting to the poor decision of one person is no reason to remove a choice for thousands who manage to enjoy it responsibly.  This wasn't a case of misinformation, the article plainly states that it is a widely known fact that Everclear is super-intoxicating.  This is a case of knowing the facts and making the wrong choice anyway, and that is regrettable and preventable.

In the words of my father, who would have turned 66 this week: "Don't do stupid shit.  I can't promise you will grow old if you don't, but your chances are way better.  Use your brain or don't complain if it costs you everything you have."  Words that might have saved Jeff Wielichowsky, if someone had thought to say them before it was too late.  That would have gone much further than restricting his choices at the liquor store.

They Don't Need No Education

In a moment of total hypocrisy, Michele Bachmann says she would consider doing away with the Department of Education.  According to her, that is government intrusion into something that "the Constitution does not specifically enumerate nor does it give to the federal government the role and duty to superintend over education that historically has been held by the parents and by local communities and by state governments."  Then she goes off on a token "blah blah OBAMACARE blah blah" rant that was purely manufactured BS on her part.

The kicker?  She was asked about abortion.  Little Miss "government shouldn't control what isn't in the Constitution" flipped at that point.  When it comes to a woman's choice about her body, Bachmann folded like Superman on laundry day, and said she would do everything in her power to restrict abortions.  Just like that.  How our kids are taught should be left up to the small government.  The reproductive choice of millions of women is up to Michele Bachmann.  And the little twit still doesn't understand the concept of choice or freedom, as she illustrates with this little nugget of dumb.  Like with the rest of the Tea Party, your choices only matter when it fits their plan for how you should live.  If you dare believe differently, you don't deserve protection by law. The only choices you should have are the ones they give you.

This piece of fluff has no right talking about leadership.  She is just another brainless puppet spouting rhetoric without depth or meaning.  She should be ashamed of herself, but she lost her shame right along with her credibility.  

Redistricting Reshuffle

Bloomberg News points out that if state redistricting plans stay as is, a whole heck of a lot of incumbents in 2012 are in serious trouble...and frankly, I don't think America minds that particular consequence so much.

With 18 states done or almost done with the once-a-decade process of redrawing congressional district lines, the likelihood is strong that more sitting House members will be forced into face-offs than in the past 30 years.

“Redistricting is term limits by another name,” Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, said in a telephone interview.

In the maps drawn so far, at least 13 districts in California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina are being reshaped in a way that put the homes of two incumbents into the same territory. Some of those House members have decided to run for another seat and others have yet to say whether they’ll run at all.

Two more such pairings are expected but not yet set in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and more are probable in the 25 states that aren’t far along in the remapping process, including Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The problem is with Republicans controlling redistricting processes in a majority of the states, it's Democrats who are going to be forced into matches where two Representatives enter and only one leaves, and Republicans are hoping by doing so, they can blunt or even deflect the Dems' planned takeover of the House.

This is why allowing Republicans to run rampant at local and state level elections was such a bad way to teach Democrats a "lesson" in 2010.  You literally couldn't have picked a worse time to do it, and this is why.

Hacked Off In The UK, Part 9

And the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking story just won't quit, as the inquiry from an increasingly guilty-looking British Parliament now zeros in on son James Murdoch and his role.

James Murdoch knew more than three years ago that phone-hacking at News Corp's News of the World went beyond one "rogue" reporter, the newspaper's former legal chief said on Tuesday, contradicting repeated denials by Murdoch.

As the two-month crisis that has gripped News Corp and Britain's political establishment deepened, Tom Crone also said he had seen evidence that the company had recently hired freelance reporters to spy on hacking victims' lawyers.

In a statement, James Murdoch stuck to his denial that he had known at the time that hacking was more widespread but Crone's repeated allegations, and the mention of recent spying, cast doubt on Murdoch's effectiveness in weeding out wrongdoing.

News Corp has been engulfed by the scandal since July when it was revealed that the phone hacking extended beyond celebrities and politicians to murder victims including schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and British war dead.

The crisis has already wiped billions of dollars off News Corp's market value, cost it two senior executives, forced it to drop a $12 billion bid for BSkyB and to shut down the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid.

So far plenty of ugly eurozone financial news, Libya's liberation, and GOP Clown Car antics have kept the Murdochs off the front page here in the states, but this story is getting increasingly ugly for the Murdochs and the News Corp. empire.  If Murdoch the son knew about the phone hacking nonsense three years ago, and knew it was widespread, he's pretty much toast.

One has to wonder if Rupert is throwing his own son to the wolves to save his own leathery ass, nor would that surprise me one bit.  We'll see where the focus on James Murdoch goes, but something tells me we're going to be hearing a lot more about what James knew and when he knew it.

Not Baffled By The Raffle

Less than a week after they were pilloried by critics in both parties for auctioning off a Glock handgun similar to the one used to shoot Rep. Gabby Giffords in the head, the Pima County Arizona Republican Party is flush with attention, enough that chairman Mike Shaw thinks raffling off another firearm is a great idea.

The Arizona Daily Star reports the Pima County GOP saw such a bump in interest after all the national attention for the Glock raffle that Shaw decided to throw another weapon on the auction block. The paper reports the GOP "subsequently raffled a deer rifle" after the Glock fundraiser went so well.

It's worth noting that Shaw's critics on both sides of the aisle told TPM last week that a rifle auction would probably never have drawn the criticism the Glock auction did in gun-friendly Arizona. With a local election a day away in Pima County's biggest city, Tucson -- which residents refer to as "the Berkeley of Arizona" -- the Star reports city Republcians are sprinting away from the county GOP's fundraising decisions.

"When you have a slate of candidates who are already trying to generate some name recognition, in a city where they are out-registered by 2-to-1, and you tie a Glock to their tail, you've pretty much shown that you don't understand the dynamics of the area," Tucson councilperson Steve Kozachik (R) told the paper. He "characterized [the Glock auction] as 'incredibly stupid,'" the paper reports.

Once again, Tuscon Republicans are walling themselves off from the Pima County GOP as fast as they can, because even Republicans think this is a horrible idea.  Even worse however is the message this sends: a morbid attempt to raise money off supporting firearms rights after a Congresswoman was shot in the head just eight months ago seems at best inappropriately creepy and at worst, a loud and unmistakeable threat to other Democrats.

The fact they are doing this twice now makes me believe the truth is far closer to the latter.


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